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Rural Livelihoods, Gender Dynamics, and Intersectional Inequalities in South China

Yu, Shiping (2020) Rural Livelihoods, Gender Dynamics, and Intersectional Inequalities in South China. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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China has been increasingly integrated into the global economic system since the initiation of market reforms in the late 1970s. This process has led to rapid livelihood changes in rural China. While some rural livelihood studies pay attention to gender difference in rural livelihoods, showing that women tend to be more divided than united, little has been done to explore the more complex inequalities created by the intersection between gender and class (defined as the possession of wealth and power). The possession of economic capital is the primary consideration in this analysis whilst the consideration of political capital is a secondary element in this analysis. This research deals with the lacunae in existing livelihood studies by examining village women’s access to livelihood resources which were intersected with gender and class in South China from the early 1980s to the mid-2010s. It addresses the following research questions: 1) What are the institutional processes that have mediated and influenced Chinese village women's access to livelihood resources over the past four decades? 2) How have intersectional gender and class dynamics shaped village women's access to livelihood assets? 3) How and why have women's access to livelihood resources and their livelihoods varied under the effects of market reforms and wider dynamics in the historical context of China’s tremendous societal change and transformations? These questions are answered through adopting an integrated conceptual framework combining a livelihoods approach which emphasises access, the concept of intersectionality, and qualitative research methods. Data was collected through fieldwork in Pin village in South China by means of life history narratives, focus group interviews, observations, and documentary analysis. The research finds that village women’s access to key livelihood resources, especially land, water, healthcare, and social security, was mediated by formal and informal institutions, including local power, market forces, and gender dynamics, and intersected with class in the context of increasing commodification and social stratification in rural China. The study shows that utilising gender as a single analytical category cannot fully explain the different experiences of different women in regard to their access to livelihood resources. The study argues that women’s access to assets is not determined solely along gender lines, but that class must be taken into account too. Women’s class status, determined by their differential association with a male-dominated power structure, complicates the ways in which they access livelihood assets. Women from better-off households are at an advantage compared with poorer men and women. These women possess greater financial and political capital that facilitates their access to land, water, healthcare services, and social security programmes, whereas poor women are disadvantaged and marginalised. The research also argues that the increasing rural marketisation has further widened the disparity between the rich and the poor, leading to greater intersectional inequalities among village women.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: livelihoods, gender, intersection, China, power
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds) > East Asian Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Shiping Yu
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 17:28
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 17:28
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/27195

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